The Drive: Obsolete Metrodome signs not going away

  • Article by: TIM HARLOW , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 21, 2014 - 1:05 PM

The Metrodome has long been torn down and the new Vikings stadium on the east end of downtown Minneapolis is quickly rising in its ashes. So why are there signs on metro area freeways directing motorists to the former home of the Minnesota Twins, Vikings and Gophers?

That question recently landed in the Drive’s mailbag, along with a couple others about white posts encroaching on a downtown Minneapolis intersection.

Motorists can see signs for the Metrodome on northbound I-35W in the downtown Minneapolis commons, southbound I-35W near Hennepin Avenue, eastbound I-394 at Wirth Pkwy. and southbound I-94 near the Dowling Avenue exit. They likely will stay there for the foreseeable future, said Kris Krueger, a spokeswoman for the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

By way of background, signs like the ones for the old Metrodome and other attractions such as the Xcel Energy Center, the State Fairgrounds, casinos, colleges and schools are paid for by the venues. They pay for the sign, which begins at $850 but can balloon into the thousands depending on the size. The venue must also pay to have the signs installed. The Vikings have not asked for new signs, Krueger said.

Another factor is that the Metrodome signs are attached to bridge decks or overhead fixtures. MnDOT would have to close a traffic lane and hire a contractor to take them down and then repeat the process if new signs are put up in their place.

“We try to minimize the impact on traffic and minimize the work done so we don’t have to go twice,” Krueger said. “We know they are old, but they are not doing any harm.”

The Vikings’ stadium is set to open in 2016 (and by then it may even have a name). If the team requests signs to direct fans to their posh new palace, Krueger said MnDOT could use the current signs that already are in place.

“We can do what’s called an overlay,” Krueger said. “We could leave that sign up and just put up something with a new name,” she said.

What about those posts?

A few readers have asked the Drive what the deal is with the white posts that were installed last fall at the intersection of 6th Street and Portland Avenue.

For starters, they are called painted curb extensions. By extending the sidewalk farther into the intersection, the extensions, also known as bulb-outs or neckdowns, narrow the size of an intersection and create a wider turning radius. Their purpose is to help make pedestrians more visible, shorten the crossing width and force drivers who are making turns slow down, said Mackenzie Turner Bargen, a pedestrian planner with the Bicycle and Pedestrian Section of the Minneapolis Public Works Department.

Portland at 6th was chosen for the pilot program because “it was a high-crash intersection” involving pedestrians, she said. Another set of curb extensions were put up along 31st Street between Dupont and Grand avenues because they are near activity centers and have intersections with all-way stops, she said.

Curb extensions are becoming commonplace in other major metropolitan areas. Minneapolis will evaluate their performance here, and if effective, could put up more, Turner Bargen said.

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